Thursday, July 09, 2015

Labour Marketing Isn't Working

Perhaps one of the last truly impactful (in a positive way) election ads.
 (image from:
The last general election in the UK was one of the most disappointing events I've seen in a long long time. The apparent complete lack of knowledge and judgement by the British people was on a scale that makes American politics look sane.

As a planner I find it fascinating to understand what it is that actually makes people vote, and why they don't vote with the facts. Because, from everything I've seen, there's no way ANYONE could have voted Tory based upon the pure facts of their time in government. Perhaps people's hatred of the Lib Dems allowed them to morally justify voting Tory, maybe the apparent lack of charisma that Ed Miliband showed scared them, or the threat of the SNP daring to unravel austerity for the pile of economic bullshit it is was too much.

One thing that did seem very apparent, even from Australia, was that Labour's communications and their election marketing did not work. It simply did not convince people to vote for them in any way shape or form.

Perhaps part of this problem is that election campaigns are generally attack ads, they fit into a typically fear-mongering, cheesy and unlikeable form of advertising that most people want to avoid. They generally say nothing new – or do so in a way that is unpalatable. Or they even presume that people know the facts, which we know (or can very likely presume) that they don't.

So what can we do about this? Labour's marketing isn't working, and the public are simply not getting the key facts that might actually help to change their mind. This is largely because the media, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, do not want people to know the facts. They want them to hate benefit claimants not wealthy recipients of inheritance – even though both get something for nothing. In fact arguably benefit claimants do more, as they have to visit a job centre and often do unpaid work to allow their claim. They want them to hate high spending wasteful Labour, even though the last government spent more than Labour ever did. Etc etc. Not to mention that most Tory voters probably aren't that interested in seeking out a contrary fact or opinion in this increasingly partisan age.

So what if we change the election marketing game completely. Do what many brands are doing, and being advised to do – and move to an always on approach?

Instead of creating unlikeable and ineffective attack ads, and trying to sell personalities that no one wants to like – we take the facts, the simple things that people need to know and are not being told, and create simple clear advertising that gets those messages across. We do that 365 days a year, with a thinly spread but well targeted campaign that makes the facts harder to miss, regardless of what party you generally support.

“Immigration creates a profit of xxx for Britain.”

“Tax evasion costs Britain over four times as much as benefit fraud.”

“xx people have died due to benefit cuts in 2014.”

“George Osborne lost $13bn of taxpayers money by selling RBS early”

Historically this would have been on billboard posters, but now we can do it through online banners or Facebook targeting. It doesn't matter if people don't click, because they see the clear factual message, and see it repeated. The advertising starts to question the usual narrative and provide answers, but in a clear and concise way that it is easy to pick up. Advertising interrupts, and in this case we use that very deliberately to push the narrative of discussion with seemingly unknown facts.

The difference is, by doing this all the time – for a year or two leading up to an election – you make it harder for the opposition to escape the facts, and you have time to repeat messages so they are absorbed instead of rushing at election time to get summation sound-bites that mean nothing to anyone.

I'm sure it's not a flawless plan yet,but I fail to see how it can be any worse than election advertising has been in the last two decades.